Toni Duggan out to save England after saving ice-cream shop

By Alistair MagowanBBC Sport in Linkoping
Toni Duggan profile

Scoring the injury-time goal that kept England in the European Championship might be enough drama for one day, but for Toni Duggan a late-night brush with a burglar made it truly unforgettable.

With England 1-0 down to Russia, the 21-year-old came off the bench with a shock exit staring the Euro 2009 finalists in the face.

But after already hitting the crossbar in the 90th minute, the Everton striker remembered her club manager's sage advice to steer the ball into the corner in the third minute of stoppage time, keeping England's hopes alive.

Despite her personal delight at scoring her first major tournament goal, Duggan was "bitterly disappointed" by the result against the tournament's lowest-ranked team and could not sleep on Monday night.

Then, looking out of her room window, she caught a thief trying to burgle an ice-cream shop outside their hotel.

"We've got to know the owner very well, we've given him a ticket to the game and few flags, so I just phoned reception and they got the police," she said. "It was crazy. The police and dogs were there all night."

Liverpudlian Duggan has an infectious personality and can laugh about the episode now. And she has already turned her attentions to beating France in England's final Group C match on Thursday.

Hope Powell's side must win to maintain a realistic chance of reaching the quarter-finals, but England have not defeated the French since 1974. England's cause is not helped by two disappointing displays at Euro 2013, where Powell and the players have admitted they have under-performed.

But in scoring such a vital goal, Duggan displayed an urgency which England have been lacking so far. It wasn't just good timing on the pitch either. Her instinctive strike came in front of her mum, who overcame her fear of flying to lend her support in Sweden.

"My mum has never flown before, and she came out here to watch me with my little cousin Layla and my auntie, so when I scored I blew a kiss to them," she explained.

"I didn't know what I had to do to get her on the plane, but hopefully that goal has made up for it now."

After the opening defeat by Spain, which also followed a 4-1 warm-up loss to hosts Sweden, and the draw with Russia, Duggan's efforts have come at a time when there have been growing calls to freshen up the team.

Last-gasp goal keeps England in Euros

Even FA director of development Sir Trevor Brooking said during half-time of the Russia game that Duggan and Arsenal midfielder Jordan Nobbs should be introduced.

Nobbs did not make it on to the pitch, but, true enough, when Duggan and Kelly Smith came on in the second half, England looked transformed. Some on Twitter called it "Toni Time". With England on their way out of the tournament beforehand, the only question was why Powell left it so late.

Powell said afterwards that a first-half injury to Rachel Yankey meant she had to be cautious in her substitutions. And England's record goalscorer Smith, so often their most creative influence, has been working her way back from a shin injury.

But Duggan and Nobbs are regarded as having the ability to impress after working their way up through the England youth teams and having stellar seasons in the Women's Super League. Duggan has scored nine goals in 10 games this term.

They were both part of the England Under-19 side that won the European Championship in Belarus four years ago and Duggan admits she has been frustrated by her lack of chances so far.

"We all want to play a part, I'd expect any of the squad to answer the same way," she said. "But you've got to respect the manager's decision. Every player here is good enough to play so no matter what starting XI goes out there, we'll be confident that we're a good enough team to win the game."

Powell hinted there may be changes for the France game, a view backed up by Smith, who is a senior figure in the side. She thinks her Arsenal team-mate Nobbs can make an impact too, despite being unused so far.

Duggan has certainly shown what England have waiting on the bench and revealed why she never gave up despite the team looking doomed.

"I think it is just something in my head that tells me to keep believing," she added. "Andy Spence, my manager at Everton, wrote me a little card before we came away and wrote at the bottom 'Just remember, it only takes a second to score a goal'.

"I kept telling myself that during the game. Not once did I look at the scoreboard to see how long was left. I kept believing I could score, it's a good attitude to have and as soon as I got in the changing room I sent him a message to thank him for reminding me of it."

That sort of unerring belief could yet be England's saviour. Hopefully Duggan, and perhaps Nobbs, will get a decent chance to show it.